How do you build hearts, homes, and homeschools for Christ? Where do you begin such a building project? Does your homeschool need a little remodeling, an updated renovation or perhaps a complete demolition and “do over”? Before you answer this question, let’s do a “walk through” of the different rooms in your “home.”
At our Homeschooling Mom Event (March 29th & 30th), we will do a deeper inspection of each “room” in our home and homeschooling. We will explore in more detail how to build hearts, homes, and homeschools for Christ – one room at a time. We will share ideas on how to develop more meaningful personal quiet time with the Lord and more meaningful family devotions with your family as well as share ideas on how to spend your leisure time as a family in a God-honoring way. We will explore how to incorporate traditions and service into your homeschool days and how to build more meaningful relationships with those we love (and teach.) But for now, I would like to give you a sneak peek of our upcoming Saturday session Building Hearts & Home (schools) for Christ by sharing in more detail how to “build” The Study or The Homeschool Room.
The Study (or the Homeschool Room) is where the bulk of academic learning takes place. In your home, you may have an actual school room filled with bookcases, supplies and whiteboards, or perhaps you do the majority of your teaching on the floor in your family room with projects on the kitchen table and artwork drying on top of the washing machine. Probably, your home might look and sound like a combination of the two: books (and bookshelves) everywhere, pencils and pens spread throughout the house and experiments growing in the kitchen sink (mainly because no one has washed the dishes in a few days!) Whether your homeschool “room” has four walls or no walls at all, this is the area of your home that makes your home a homeSCHOOL.
Because my husband works from home, we do have an “office” in our house. Our school stuff has slowly taken over his space but oddly this is not the room we do most of our work. Both kids have desks in their rooms but only my daughter uses hers. Currently, my son’s desk is covered with baseball cards, theatre scripts, peppermint essential oils, and toilet paper. ( I have no idea why there is a roll of TP on his desk. Sometimes it is best just not to ask.) Together, we do history and read alouds in the family room. We do family devotions at the kitchen table during breakfast. My daughter is in college now but when she was homeschooling high school, she and my son did science separately and each took outside science classes. When they were younger, we usually did science together either outside in our backyard or we made a mess dissecting something in the kitchen! My son likes to do most of his school work in the family room while I work on my computer. He likes the company. My daughter always retreated to her room to do her math, English and Spanish work. We do have maps hanging on the walls in the office (or “schoolroom”), but we have bookshelves everywhere! We even have a closet and a bookshelf filled with games! Basically, our school “room” isn’t one particular area of the house; it is where ever we find ourselves for that day.
It is not the room that makes the homeschool; it is what happens in that room that counts! Building a home (and homeschool) starts with building hearts for Christ. Our main objective in homeschooling is to share the love of Christ with our family, teach the Word of God to our children and help our kids build a personal relationship with Jesus. With this in mind, building hearts and home (schools) for Christ begins with our relationship with our kids. Relationships should always come before checklists. On those really bad days, is it more important to finish all of the math problems or to take a much-needed break to restore a broken heart? We should always remember we teach children not curriculum.
Remember, this is a calling. Many of us homeschool our children because we feel God is calling us to do so. Often times, I feel God has called me to homeschool so He can teach ME important lessons. However, I know no matter how inadequate I feel or how overwhelmed I may get, the best place for my child to be is home and the best teacher for him is me. I may not fully understand how to balance chemical equations or how to conjugate a Latin verb, but I do want the best for him, and I am the only teacher who truly knows him, understands him and loves him unconditionally. Building relationships is the most important part of homeschooling. Because of homeschooling, I have more time to build deeper connections with my children, to dig deeper into their hearts and to have more meaningful conversations.
The best lessons do not come from finishing challenging workbooks, exploding science experiments or even hands-on history projects. The best lessons happen when I take the time to hear them, really hear them, their hearts, their frustrations, their dreams. The best lessons happen when we finish a book, burst out into tears (well that’s me, not the kids) and then erupt into a meaningful conversation about the character’s courage or sense of loyalty. The best lessons happen when my daughter fails a math test but realizes this is something she needs to work harder at if she wants to pursue the calling God has placed on her heart. The best lessons are not that my son learned how to cook a Cornish hen but that he voluntarily cooked a cornish hen with all of the fixings for a neighbor who just got home from the hospital. Even on your worst school days, if you had an opportunity to teach your child about God’s character, to create a special memory or to just sit and talk about life and their dreams, you are building a heart, a home (and a homeschool) for Christ.
Remember: Keep it simple and keep it real! It is also important to remember that there is no perfect curriculum or methodology. We should not be a slave to a curriculum; we should be the master of it. The teacher’s guide is a guide. It is there to help and give suggestions. Never feel guilty for not doing every activity listed in a teacher’s guide. If you find that one particular curriculum works best with your family and your family’s schedule, then great! Stick with it! However, you may also find that not one curriculum fits the different needs of your family. Feel free to mix and match. Use what works in math for one child and use something different for your teen or struggling student. Just keep it SIMPLE! Sometimes less is better! At last year’s homeschooling mom event, we discussed in our last session how to S.I.M.P.L.F.Y our homeschooling. We used the acronym S.I.M.P.L.F.Y to help us remember the 7 easiest ways to destress our homeschool: Start with the end in mind (and work backwards). Invite others into your life. (Don’t do this alone!) Mark Twain’s quote is an important reminder to “Never let schooling get in the way of your education. Plug in & Unplug! (Get involved with a homeschool group and get outside!!). Less is more and simple is better. If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters of the alphabet. (Be flexible!) Your job is to be a faithful servant not a perfect mother!
Since we homeschool, we do need to teach the basics. (Most homeschoolers go over and beyond what is expected or even required!) So how do you literally and figuratively remodel or renovate your home’s “School Room“?
First, put the HOME back in HOMEschool! If you are never home, you will always feel behind. Prioritize your schedule. Remember, less is more and simple is better! You do not have to take every awesome class that is offered outside the home. You do not have to go on every field trip posted (although field trips are a great way to learn!) You don’t have to participate in every co-op, book club and sports team in your community. There is a season for everything. Perhaps this is the season to skip dance and soccer to concentrate on family game nights (with dinner together) and include extra math tutoring into the schedule (and budget.) Figure out which subjects you can teach to the entire family. When my kids were younger, we always did read alouds, history, and science together. As the children matured, we still did read alouds and history together but individualized their sciences. Get more bang for your buck! Read aloud biographies, historical fictions, and science picture books. Not only are you getting in more quality time and excellent language arts lessons but at the same time, you are also learning about history, science, art, and music AND building relationships through meaningful conversations.
Secondly, don’t skimp on reading aloud as a family even when your children are teens. Not only does the vocabulary become richer but the topics and themes become more meaningful as well. You will be amazed at how much you connect with your teen by reading a book you loved (or hated) as a teen and by sharing your thoughts (and memories) related to a particular book or character. Read silly books too! Pippi Longstocking is a hoot, Milo’s adventures through The Phantom Tollbooth are hilarious, and the BFG by Ronald Dahl really is a big, friendly giant! The Penderwicks and Anne of Green Gables are full of real-life issues (and fun). Every boy needs to read Where the Red Fern Grows and every girl needs to read Because of Winn Dixie. On those really bad days, if all you did was pray, do family devotions, and read aloud together, then your day was actually a successful one. There will be other days and other times for more academics. Never beat yourself up for taking a ditch day to “just” play together, read together and worship together!
Thirdly, incorporate writing activities every day! Keeping it simple truly means concentrating on the 3 R’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. We covered the importance of reading every day. Don’t skimp on writing! It is important students write every day too! In the early years, it is not necessary to incorporate a formal writing and grammar program into your K-4 grade lesson plans. Give younger students a meaningful and/or fun reason to write every day but make sure you keep it simple. Once students reach high school, the level of writing can and should become more challenging. Expect your teen to write argumentative, expository and narrative essays. At this point, the program or curriculum doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they have plenty of opportunities to write and rewrite.
**For more ideas on how to make writing fun and meaningful, come back next month. Our April post will be “Budding Authors and Struggling Writers.”**
Next, it goes without saying doing math daily is important, even if math lessons only last for 10-20 minutes. Math is just like learning an instrument: practice does make perfect (or at least helps you get close to it!) Whatever curriculum you use, make sure it meets the needs of your child’s learning style. If he is tactile, try something like Math U See or Math It. If he is visual, try using a colorful text like Singapore Math or Spectrum. If he is auditory, try a computer based program like Teaching Textbooks or math facts put to song. If he needs to move, let him move around while verbally giving you the answers. If he excels in literature, try the Fred Series. If he is an extrovert, incorporate a lot of math games into your day. If he is an introvert, make sure he has lots of quiet alone time to work in his workbook. Don’t feel like he has to do every problem on every page. Repetition, practice, and mastery are the goals. We do not want tears, bitterness or a life long case of mathphobia! Remember, less is more and simple is better. If your child masters the following skills at each grade level listed, then they will be well prepared for higher mathematics in high school:
Prek -K: Recognize numbers and basic shapes & counting
1st-2nd: Addition & subtraction of whole numbers and money
3rd-4th: Multiplication, division, and computation with simple area, perimeter, & volume
5th-6th: Fractions, decimals, and percents (Make sure they master rational numbers!)
7th-8th: Integers (positive and negative numbers), solve simple equations and computation with geometry formulas
**For more helpful ideas on how to teach math with games, check out our December post.**
Finally, include the humanities in your curriculum. There are many different approaches to teaching history, science, art, and music. The key is to actually teach them and if possible connect them together. History comes alive when students realize how music, art, and philosophy affected the events of the day, the inventions being created and the laws being passed. When history is studied in chronological order, students begin to understand the cause and effect of events, political movements and elected leaders throughout history. Music theory is greatly appreciated when the life and times of the composers are studied. Masterpieces in art come alive when students learn the life and motivations behind the masters. I hated history growing up. However, now it is my favorite subject. Relearning history by teaching it to my kids has helped me build a love and appreciation for history. Reading, writing, and math are the backbones to academic learning. They help us decipher information. However, learning the humanities teaches us about God, human nature, relationships, and society.
We have used many different curriculums throughout our twenty plus years of homeschooling. There is not one BEST curriculum for humanities, however, we have several favorites that have helped our family learn about HIStory and its connection to the sciences, literature, art, music and even mathematics. For a literature approach, we used Five in A Row (FIAR) when the kids were younger and My Father’s World (MFW) when they were older. Many of my seasoned homeschooling friends used Sonlight. The Charlotte Mason approach to gentle learning as well as Carol Joy Seid is very helpful with ideas on how to integrate together all of the subjects through literature or living books. For a classical approach, we have participated in Classical Conversations co-ops throughout the years and the use of timelines, timeline cards, and timeline notebooks. Many of my homeschooling friends have used and loved The Mystery of History. To use art history as the backbone, check out Meet the Masters program. They now have a homeschool version! Our family loved learning about masterpieces and the time periods in which they were created by learning about the master artists. The program even gives simple drawing instruction so each month your students end up with a masterpiece of their own. To include music, we would listen to music of the time period while we worked on our artwork. Simply Charlotte Mason website and store has some great resources and CDs for composers of all eras. If you would like to use science as the backbone of your humanity studies, we used the Apologia Young Explorers series for many years. It does a great job of teaching science to the whole family at one time.
**For more ideas on how to teach science with games, nature journals and literature, check out our September posts.***
In this post, we only discussed how to build hearts, homes, and homeschools while in “The Home Office” or “Schoolroom.” At the end of THIS month at our upcoming homeschooling mom event, we will “remodel” the rest of the home in our last Saturday session, Building Hearts and Home (Schools) for Christ. We will give more helpful hints on how to remodel your “Home Office” (or School Room) and how to use games as a way to teach. Martin and Carolyn Forte, co-founders of Excellence in Education and creators of The Games Curriculum will share ideas on how to use games to teach everything from Chemistry to World History. In our last session on Saturday, we will focus most of our time on the other “rooms” of our homeschool. We will make sure the “foundation” is built on solid rock, the “Living Room” points you and your children to a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, the “Dining Room” (or Family Room) is filled with Godly entertainment that whets their appetite for things that are lovely and praiseworthy, the “Kitchen” is serving “healthy food” worthy of consumption, the “Bedroom” is a place of refreshment and rest, and the “Bathroom” is set up as an area of daily confession.
Our prayer team is praying for you and for our special homeschooling mom event. We hope to see you March 29th and 30th.
May God richly bless you, keep you and shine His face upon you,